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Ethnic cleansing is the systematic forced removal of ethnic, racial, and religious groups from a given area, with the intent of making a region ethnically homogeneous. Along with direct removal, extermination, deportation or population transfer, it also includes indirect methods aimed at forced migration by coercing the victim group to flee and preventing its return, such as murder, rape, and property destruction. It constitutes a crime against humanity and may also fall under the Genocide Convention, even as ethnic cleansing has no legal definition under international criminal law.
Many instances of ethnic cleansing have occurred throughout history; the term was first used by the perpetrators as a euphemism during the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s. Since then, the term has gained widespread acceptance due to journalism and the media's heightened use of the term in its generic meaning.
An antecedent to the term is the Greek word andrapodismos (ἀνδραποδισμός; lit. "enslavement"), which was used in ancient texts. e.g., to describe atrocities that accompanied Alexander the Great's conquest of Thebes in 335 BC. In the early 1900s, regional variants of the term could be found among the Czechs (očista), the Poles (czystki etniczne), the French (épuration) and the Germans (Säuberung).[page needed] A 1913 Carnegie Endowment report condemning the actions of all participants in the Balkan Wars contained various new terms to describe brutalities committed toward ethnic groups.
During World War II, the euphemism čišćenje terena ("cleansing the terrain") was used by the Croatian Ustaše to describe military actions in which non-Croats were purposely killed or otherwise uprooted from their homes. Viktor Gutić, a senior Ustaše leader, was one of the first Croatian nationalists on record to use the term as a euphemism for committing atrocities against Serbs. The term was later used in the internal memorandums of Serbian Chetniks in reference to a number of retaliatory massacres they committed against Bosniaks and Croats between 1941 and 1945. The Russian phrase очистка границ (ochistka granits; lit. "cleansing of borders") was used in Soviet documents of the early 1930s to refer to the forced resettlement of Polish people from the 22-kilometre (14 mi) border zone in the Byelorussian and Ukrainian SSRs. This process of the population transfer in the Soviet Union was repeated on an even larger scale in 1939–1941, involving many other groups suspected of disloyalty. During the Holocaust, Nazi Germany pursued a policy of ensuring that Europe was "cleaned of Jews" (judenrein). The Nazi Generalplan Ost called for the genocide and ethnic cleansing of most Slavic people in central and eastern Europe for the purpose of providing more living space for the Germans.
In its complete form, the term appeared for the first time in the Romanian language (purificare etnică) in an address by Vice Prime Minister Mihai Antonescu to cabinet members in July 1941. After the beginning of the invasion by the Soviet Union,[clarification needed] he concluded: "I do not know when the Romanians will have such chance for ethnic cleansing." In the 1980s, the Soviets used the term "ethnic cleansing" to describe the inter-ethnic violence in Nagorno-Karabakh. At around the same time, the Yugoslav media used it to describe what they alleged was an Albanian nationalist plot to force all Serbs to leave Kosovo. It was widely popularized by the Western media during the Bosnian War (1992–1995).
In 1992, the German equivalent of ethnic cleansing (German: ethnische Säuberung, pronounced [ˈʔɛtnɪʃə ˈzɔɪ̯bəʁʊŋ] (listen)) was named German Un-word of the Year by the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache due to its euphemistic, inappropriate nature.
The Final Report of the Commission of Experts established pursuant to Security Council Resolution 780 defined ethnic cleansing as "a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas". In its previous, first interim report it noted, "based on the many reports describing the policy and practices conducted in the former Yugoslavia, [that] 'ethnic cleansing' has been carried out by means of murder, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, extra-judicial executions, rape and sexual assaults, confinement of civilian population in ghetto areas, forcible removal, displacement and deportation of civilian population, deliberate military attacks or threats of attacks on civilians and civilian areas, and wanton destruction of property. Those practices constitute crimes against humanity and can be assimilated to specific war crimes. Furthermore, such acts could also fall within the meaning of the Genocide Convention."
The official United Nations definition of ethnic cleansing is "rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove from a given area persons of another ethnic or religious group." As a category, ethnic cleansing encompasses a continuum or spectrum of policies. In the words of Andrew Bell-Fialkoff, "ethnic cleansing ... defies easy definition. At one end it is virtually indistinguishable from forced emigration and population exchange while at the other it merges with deportation and genocide. At the most general level, however, ethnic cleansing can be understood as the expulsion of a population from a given territory."
Terry Martin has defined ethnic cleansing as "the forcible removal of an ethnically defined population from a given territory" and as "occupying the central part of a continuum between genocide on one end and nonviolent pressured ethnic emigration on the other end."
Gregory Stanton, the founder of Genocide Watch, has criticised the rise of the term and its use for events that he feels should be called "genocide": because "ethnic cleansing" has no legal definition, its media use can detract attention from events that should be prosecuted as genocide.
There is no international treaty that specifies a specific crime of ethnic cleansing; however, ethnic cleansing in the broad sense—the forcible deportation of a population—is defined as a crime against humanity under the statutes of both the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The gross human rights violations integral to stricter definitions of ethnic cleansing are treated as separate crimes falling under public international law of crimes against humanity and in certain circumstances genocide. There are also situations, such as the expulsion of Germans after World War II, where ethnic cleansing has taken place without legal redress (see Preussische Treuhand v. Poland). Timothy v. Waters argues that similar ethnic cleansing could go unpunished in the future.
According to Michael Mann, in The Dark Side of Democracy (2004), murderous ethnic cleansing is strongly related to the creation of democracies. He argues that murderous ethnic cleansing is due to the rise of nationalism, which associates citizenship with a specific ethnic group. Democracy, therefore, is tied to ethnic and national forms of exclusion. Nevertheless, it is not democratic states that are more prone to commit ethnic cleansing, because minorities tend to have constitutional guarantees. Neither are stable authoritarian regimes (except the nazi and communist regimes) which are likely perpetrators of murderous ethnic cleansing, but those regimes that are in process of democratization. Ethnic hostility appears where ethnicity overshadows social classes as the primordial system of social stratification. Usually, in deeply divided societies, categories such as class and ethnicity are deeply intertwined, and when an ethnic group is seen as oppressor or exploitative of the other, serious ethnic conflict can develop. Michael Mann holds that when two ethnic groups claim sovereignty over the same territory and can feel threatened, their differences can lead to severe grievances and danger of ethnic cleansing. The perpetration of murderous ethnic cleansing tends to occur in unstable geopolitical environments and in contexts of war. As ethnic cleansing requires high levels of organisation and is usually directed by states or other authoritative powers, perpetrators are usually state powers or institutions with some coherence and capacity, not failed states as it is generally perceived. The perpetrator powers tend to get support by core constituencies that favour combinations of nationalism, statism and violence.
Ethnic cleansing has been described as part of a continuum of violence whose most extreme form is genocide, where the perpetrator's goal is the destruction of the targeted group. Ethnic cleansing is similar to forced deportation or population transfer whereas genocide is the attempt to destroy part or all of a particular ethnic, racial, religious, or national group. While ethnic cleansing and genocide may share the same goal and the acts which are used to perpetrate both crimes may often resemble each other, ethnic cleansing is intended to displace a persecuted population from a given territory, while genocide is intended to destroy a group.
Some academics consider genocide to be a subset of "murderous ethnic cleansing". As Norman Naimark writes, these concepts are different but related, for "literally and figuratively, ethnic cleansing bleeds into genocide, as mass murder is committed in order to rid the land of a people". William Schabas adds, "Ethnic cleansing is also a warning sign of genocide to come. Genocide is the last resort of the frustrated ethnic cleanser." Sociologist Martin Shaw has criticized distinguishing between ethnic cleansing and genocide as he believes that both ultimately result in the destruction of a group though coercive violence.[a]
The foibe massacres, or simply "the foibe", refers to mass killings both during and after World War II, mainly committed by Yugoslav Partisans and OZNA in the then-Italian territories[b] of Julian March (Karst Region and Istria), Kvarner and Dalmatia also against the local ethnic Italian population (Istrian Italians and Dalmatian Italians). The type of attack was state terrorism and ethnic cleansing against Italians. The foibe massacres were followed by the Istrian–Dalmatian exodus, which was the post-World War II exodus and departure of between 230,000 and 350,000 of local ethnic Italians (Istrian Italians and Dalmatian Italians) towards Italy, and in smaller numbers, towards the Americas, Australia and South Africa. From 1947, after the war, they were subject by Yugoslav authorities to less violent forms of intimidation, such as nationalization, expropriation, and discriminatory taxation, which gave them little option other than emigration. In 1953, there were 36,000 declared Italians in Yugoslavia, just about 16% of the original Italian population before World War II. According to the census organized in Croatia in 2001 and that organized in Slovenia in 2002, the Italians who remained in the former Yugoslavia amounted to 21,894 people (2,258 in Slovenia and 19,636 in Croatia).
When enforced as part of a political settlement, as happened with the expulsion of Germans after World War II through the forced resettlement of ethnic Germans to Germany in its reduced borders after 1945, the forced population movements, constituting a type of ethnic cleansing, may contribute to long-term stability of a post-conflict nation.[page needed] Some justifications may be made as to why the targeted group will be moved in the conflict resolution stages, as in the case of the ethnic Germans, some individuals of the large German population in Czechoslovakia and prewar Poland had encouraged Nazi jingoism before World War II, but this was forcibly resolved.[page needed]
For a more comprehensive list, see List of ethnic cleansing campaigns.
In many cases, the side perpetrating the alleged ethnic cleansing and its allies have fiercely disputed the charge. Ethnic cleansing is usually accompanied by efforts to remove physical and cultural evidence of the targeted group in the territory through the destruction of homes, social centers, farms, and infrastructure, as well as through the desecration of monuments, cemeteries, and places of worship.
Mutual ethnic cleansing occurs when two groups commit ethnic cleansing against minority members of the other group within their own territories. For instance in the 1920s, Greece expelled its Turkish minority and Turkey expelled its Greek minority. Other examples of mutual ethnic cleansings include the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the demographic transfers of Poles and Ukrainians after WWII.
Main article: Outline of Genocide studies
The thesis being proposed here is that the Armenian Genocide was not implemented solely as demographic engineering, but also as destruction and annihilation, and that the 5 to 10 percent principle was decisive in achieving this goal. Care was taken so that the number of Armenians deported to Syria, and those who remained behind, would not exceed 5 to 10 percent of the population of the places in which they were found. Such a result could be achieved only through annihilation... According to official Ottoman statistics, it was necessary to reduce the prewar population of 1.3 million Armenians to approximately 200,000.
Most frequently, however, the aim of ethnic cleansing is to expel the despised ethnic group through either indirect coercion or direct force, and to ensure that return is impossible. Terror is the fundamental method used to achieve this end.
Methods of indirect coercion can include: introducing repressive laws and discriminatory measures designed to make minority life difficult; the deliberate failure to prevent mob violence against ethnic minorities; using surrogates to inflict violence; the destruction of the physical infrastructure upon which minority life depends; the imprisonment of male members of the ethnic group; threats to rape female members, and threats to kill. If ineffective, these indirect methods are often escalated to coerced emigration, where the removal of the ethnic group from the territory is pressured by physical force. This typically includes physical harassment and the expropriation of property. Deportation is an escalated form of direct coercion in that the forcible removal of 'undesirables' from the state's territory is organised, directed and carried out by state agents. The most serious of the direct methods, excluding genocide, is murderous cleansing, which entails the brutal and often public murder of some few in order to compel flight of the remaining group members.13 Unlike during genocide, when murder is intended to be total and an end in itself, murderous cleansing is used as a tool towards the larger aim of expelling survivors from the territory. The process can be made complete by revoking the citizenship of those who emigrate or flee.
The Commission considered techniques of ethnic cleansing to include murder, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, extrajudicial executions, sexual assault, confinement of civilian populations in ghetto areas, forcible removal, displacement and deportation of civilian populations, deliberate military attacks or threats of attacks on civilians and civilian areas, and wanton destruction of property.
'Ethnic cleansing' is probably better described as a popular or journalistic expression, with no recognized legal meaning in a technical sense... 'ethnic cleansing' is equivalent to deportation,' a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions as well as a crime against humanity, and therefore a crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.
Upon examination of reported information, specific studies and investigations, the Commission confirms its earlier view that 'ethnic cleansing' is a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas. To a large extent, it is carried out in the name of misguided nationalism, historic grievances and a powerful driving sense of revenge. This purpose appears to be the occupation of territory to the exclusion of the purged group or groups. This policy and the practices of warring factions are described separately in the following paragraphs.Paragraph 130.
Explaining the relationship between ethnic cleansing and genocide has caused controversy. Ethnic cleansing shares with genocide the goal of achieving purity but the two can differ in their ultimate aims: ethnic cleansing seeks the forced removal of an undesired group or groups where genocide pursues the group's 'destruction'. Ethnic cleansing and genocide therefore fall along a spectrum of violence against groups with genocide lying on the far end of the spectrum.
When murder itself becomes the primary goal, it is typically called genocide... Ethnic cleansing is probably best understood as occupying the central part of a continuum between genocide on one end and nonviolent pressured ethnic emigration on the other end. Given this continuum, there will always be ambiguity as to when ethnic cleansing shades into genocide
The crime of genocide is aimed at the intentional destruction of an ethnic group. 'Ethnic cleansing' would seem to be targeted at something different, the expulsion of a group with a view to encouraging or at least tolerating its survival elsewhere. Yet ethnic cleansing may well have the effect of rendering the continued existence of a group impossible, thereby effecting its destruction. In other words, forcible deportation may achieve the same result as extermination camps.
These methods are a part of a wider continuum ranging from genocide at one extreme to emigration under pressure at the other... It is important - politically and legally - to distinguish between genocide and ethnic cleansing. The goal of the former is extermination: the complete annihilation of an ethnic, national or racial group. It contains both a physical element (acts such as murder) and a mental element (those acts are undertaken to destroy, in whole or in part, the said group). Ethnic cleansing involves population expulsions, sometimes accompanied by murder, but its aim is consolidation of power over territory, not the destruction of a complete people.
A new term was needed because ethnic cleansing and genocide two different activities, and the differences between them are important. As in the case of determining first-degree murder, intentionality is a critical distinction. Genocide is the intentional killing off of part or all of an ethnic, religious, or national group; the murder of a people or peoples (in German, Völkermord) is the objective. The intention of ethnic cleansing is to remove a people and often all traces of them from a concrete territory. The goal, in other words, is to get rid of the "alien" nationality, ethnic, or religious group and to seize control of the territory it had formerly inhabited. At one extreme of its spectrum, ethnic cleansing is closer to forced deportation or what has been called "population transfer"; the idea is to get people to move, and the means are meant to be legal and semi-legal. At the other extreme, however, ethnic cleansing and genocide are distinguishable only by the ultimate intent. Here, both literally and figuratively, ethnic cleansing bleeds into genocide, as mass murder is committed in order to rid the land of a people.
Hitler wanted the Jews utterly exterminated, not simply driven from particular places. Ethnic cleansing, on the other hand, involves removals rather than extermination and is not exceptional but rather common in particular circumstances.
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